Panic has been induced by trivial health threats. Most Americans really believe they will die if they breathe in the vicinity of someone smoking. A people afraid of secondhand smoke, a health threat so trivial that "lie" is not too strong a word to describe the dangers ascribed to it, is less likely to bravely confront terror. A country that raises its children to fear dodgeball, see-saws and monkey bars, and which bans peanut butter from schools where five children are highly allergic to peanuts, is not raising a generation prepared to confront terror.
Fear of dying has increased as many of America's citizens and elite institutions have become increasingly irreligious, even anti-religious. One major consequence of secularism is fear of dying. After all, with no God and no religion, this life is all there is. It is no wonder that the secular are far more attracted to pacifism than the religious and far more likely than religious Americans to believe that American troops who have died liberating Iraq have wasted their lives.
On the positive side, when Americans are attacked, they tend to get angry -- as we saw after Pearl Harbor and after 9-11 -- and concentrate their attention on destroying the enemy. As we did in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will muster the courage to fight terrorists here. At the same time, just as with the war in Iraq, there will be considerable opposition to that fight. The dominant news media, the universities and other elites would declare this war "racial profiling" (as if religious conviction constituted race). But Americans (including individual Muslims, though not much of their leadership) would largely unite to uncover and destroy Islamic terrorist cells here.
That is why, in the final analysis, I continue to have faith in the American people -- we did elect George W. Bush, after all, while the Iraq war was at its nadir. Still, the damage done to the American character by lawsuits, health scares and secularism has been considerable, so optimism has to be tempered. We therefore have a lot of work to do -- or we can defeat ourselves without any terror attacks against us.
Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for Townhall.com and author of his newest book, “The Ten Commandments: Still the Best Moral Code.”